back to article Ex-Dell distributor in Lebanon ignored ban on suing US tech giant. Now four directors have been sentenced to prison in the UK

A group of Lebanese IT distributors have been handed prison sentences for contempt of court after running afoul of Dell and breaching an anti-lawsuit order. An anti-suit injunction stops someone from instituting foreign court proceedings in breach of an arbitration agreement. The US megacorp secured a judgment from the UK's …

  1. big_D Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Dispute between a Lebanese company and an American company over supply and sales in Lebanon... Surely the case should be heard either in the US or in the Lebanon?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I think you're confusing the British and American legal systems...

        1. phogan

          You guys are making needlessly nationalistic. Judges getting too full of themselves and believing their jurisdiction spans globe isn't unique.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "Probably Dell were worried an American judge might be of the view that it should be tried in Lebanon, I'd think."

        Yeah, Lebanon, Pennsylvania :-)

        1. DrBed

          MAGA, anyway.

          Reminds me of that chick, daughter of Huawei CEO, arrested in - Canada, for "breaking" - US law (selling some Huawei stuff to Iran iirc). Muddy.

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      If you read the earlier judgements, you'll see that the initial distribution agreement was with "Dell Emerging Markets (EMEA) Ltd", who are based in Bracknell in the UK, and the agreement "contained an exclusive jurisdiction clause in favour of the English courts".

      1. RM Myers Bronze badge
        Joke

        No No No

        How dare you inject facts into an internet forum!! And asking people to actually read the agreement they are discussing is simply intolerable. Next you will be telling us that we should consider both sides in an argument. Pure nonsense!

        Now I need to take a lay down. What is the world coming to! This 5G isn't just causing viruses in Corona - it's addling people's brains.

        1. BenDwire Bronze badge
          Pint

          Re: No No No

          How dare you inject facts into an internet forum!!

          And that's the main reason that we come here. Good, isn't it !

        2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: No No No

          How dare you inject facts into an internet forum!!

          I'm sorry, I was bored. I'll try not to let it happen again. Cheers

          1. RM Myers Bronze badge
            Happy

            Re: No No No

            Just remember, if ignorance is bliss, then the internet is Eden.

      2. John Savard Silver badge

        This is true, but since the defendants and their sales operation are physically in Lebanon, their primary concern would be with abiding by Lebanese law.

        This court decision could have the unintended consequence of Dell entirely losing access to the Lebanese market, if its government is sufficiently affronted by an attempt to pre-empt the ability of its courts to decide whether terms in contracts governing businesses in its country are valid or not.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          John Savard,

          No. This is perfectly normal. International contracts always specify the jurisdiction and legal system that applies. A poster above says this one was from a Dell subsidiary here anyway.

          Actually it’s a large, and growing, market for UK international legal services as well. Our courts are I’m sure as bad as many other nations, but don’t have the reputation for unfairly ruling against foreign litigants. So many companies choose our system to use. Plus the City has many lawyers experienced in complex contracts (and eating big dinners) - and we have a large arbitration industry as well. Lots of Russian companies do their legal business in London for example, as Russia’s courts are likely to side with whoever Putin wants to win.

        2. anothercynic Silver badge

          Not necessarily. If your Lebanese lawyers cleared that and made it clear that any trouble would be resolved in London, and you happily signed the contract that stated that, you are bound to that agreement and accept British jurisdiction. That's how it goes.

          1. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

            Unless Lebanese law says otherwise.

            Like all end-users agreements stating that they are governed by California laws, not enforceable in the EU.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              You can’t enforce unreasonable terms on consumers, who don’t have the legal resources to deal with complex contracts. UK consumer law is now excellent, and I’ve so far saved 2 friends a total of £9,000 by reading the legislation more thoroughly than the scumbag companies who they’d contracted with did. Didn't even lawyer up, or have to go to court, just wrote the right threatening letter quoting the right passages.

              But this is a cross border business contract. There are no stabilisers. You’re assumed to be competent, and able to employ lawyers. By definition the contract has to be under a specific legal system. It can’t be both. If you don’t like it, don’t sign it. You can get unreasonable clauses struck down in court, but picking a jurisdiction is unlikely to be one of them. It’s probably the first line of the contract, so you’ve no excuse for missing it!

      3. big_D Silver badge

        Thanks, I missed that bit. That makes sense.

      4. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
        Pint

        Ah thank you was a bit miffed and couldn't really be bothered to fire up Google to check myself.

    3. eionmac

      A company can set any forum for lawsuits in a mutually agreed contract.

      Working for a UK exporter, manufacturing in England, selling to USSR (Russia) often contracts set Swedish Law and Swedish courts as forum. Likewise English manufacture selling to P/R. China we set law of Singapore and only courts of Singapore as the law forum. This Choice of Law and Forum) is very normal in many international contracts. Likewise English company selling to Scotland made English Law and English courts as sole remedy (mercantile law in Scotland can be much more severe, as law basis is very different).

      1. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

        Re: A company can set any forum for lawsuits in a mutually agreed contract.

        Yup - much the same for us.

        We work on sites throughout Europe. If we can't get the client to accept jurisdiction of the English courts, we tend to go with Netherlands. One system of law, one language regardless of which of 8+ countries the project is in, and quite accessible from the UK. We know what our liabilities are (well, our legal bods do), so understand the commercial risks involved.

        1. Len Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: A company can set any forum for lawsuits in a mutually agreed contract.

          Brexit has meant that we had to set up a Dutch company and move part of the operations there. They're quite flexible. You can even opt for a Ltd. instead of a BV (the Dutch equivalent) and have your articles of association etc. all in English. It's still under Dutch law but all texts, contracts etc. are in English.

          Last year they even set up the Netherlands Commercial Court (NCC). It can be chosen by parties in a contract as the jurisdiction for commercial disputes. It's all based on Dutch law but, again, with all texts in English and this time without a requirement to translate any documents to Dutch, as had hitherto been the case.

    4. anothercynic Silver badge

      Only if it actually involves DELL HQ. Apparently it involves the UK arm of Dellzilla, and as such, jurisdiction is the UK.

      1. Fred Dibnah Silver badge
        Happy

        'zillas

        Switchzilla = Cisco, who make switches

        Chipzilla = Intel, who make chips

        Dellzilla = Dell, who make.....Dells?

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: 'zillas

          Pre-installed bloatware-Zillla then?

          Or can anything be truly called bloatware that isn’t a set of 1.5GB HP printer drivers. Well I presume the actual driver is just a megabyte or two plus a massive suite of bug-ridden shitware...

          1. crayon

            Re: 'zillas

            "bloatware that isn’t a set of 1.5GB HP printer drivers"

            Last time I had the misfortune to install an HP printer "driver" (for a friend) it was a positively slimware at only just under 500MB. What whiz bang advances have they made to warrant the trebling in size.

            1. Len Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: 'zillas

              Yep, the HP printer "driver" that came on two DVDs.

              One of my best tech decisions ever was to never buy an HP printer ever again. I can recommend Brother.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: 'zillas

                My roughly decade-old Brother MFC-240C is still going strong, and still using $1 aftermarket cartridges while producing good print quality. I highly recommend Brother!

        2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: 'zillas

          Switchzilla = Cisco, who make switches

          Chipzilla = Intel, who make chips

          Dellzilla = Dell, who make.....Dells?

          Nice, now try that with Godzilla ;)

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
            Happy

            Re: 'zillas

            Then which company is Godzuki?

  2. Kev99

    Sounds like restraint of trade to me. Hope the Lebanese Courts rule in their favor.

    1. Arthur 1

      This is why you're not a lawyer. Article makes it clear UK was the venue specified in the contract.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        What if a Lebanese judge decides that they have jurisdiction and such a clause should be struck out of the contract? Can the Lebanese judge sentence the directors of Dell to prison in their absense, for refusing to discontinue the British lawsuit?

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          They could, perhaps, if they bribed the judge enough. But it would be hard to enforce outside Lebanon. Whereas that English judgement is more likely to be internationally enforceable because it complies with the contract as agreed and signed. Unless there’s a reason to invalidate the contract, which isn’t what they appear to have argued in our courts.

          If they couldn’t live with English law and compulsory arbitration, they shouldn’t have signed.

  3. PhilipN

    Unable to find P.I. Firm

    Pfff - bunch of wimps.

    When I practised law in London you needed a P.I./process server prepared to serve divorce proceedings on drunken Bermondsey dockers come what may.

  4. Robert Grant Silver badge

    Directors sent to prison for 18 months for not stopping a lawsuit - Register is fine with it.

    Amazon sues well paid ex-VP over non-compete - Register says "remind us, why work for AWS again?"

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      They aren’t children. They agreed the contract. If they didn’t like it, they shouldn’t have signed it. The contract gives them recourse to English law, which has a decent enough reputation.

      Obviously I don’t know if they’ve been screwed over, but if you piss off judges, they can lock you up. They know the risk of what they’re doing.

  5. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    can't see dell or the uk high court getting anywhere with this. surreal.

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      Depends on whether any of the Lebanese directors intend to set foot in the UK anytime soon for a spot of shopping on Oxford Street (or the Kings Road in Kensington).

  6. Paul 195

    Prison sentences over what is essentially a civil dispute? Seems rather heavy handed.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It’s the “contempt of court” bit that makes it criminal and not civil.

      1. el kabong Silver badge

        I suppose Lebanese people don't care much about british court rulings

        The way things are going I suspect not many people in the world would care about them either. I certainly would not.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        To me the bigger question is, how can a contractural term take away a right to legal redress? There is no way in a civilised system that this should be allowed. The court deserved to be treated with contempt. (even if their legal basis was sound, the system is clearly corrupt in allowing it)

        1. EvilDrSmith Bronze badge

          There apparently WAS right to legal redress, in that the article refers to an arbitration agreement.

          Not having seen the contract, I can only speculate, but it may have stated that if both sides agreed to go into arbitration, the results would be binding. If one or both parties don't wish to accept this, then they don't go to arbitration, but go to the Courts.

          And it seems to me to be far from corrupt - it means that if you are in the right you can (potentially) get some certainty of a resolution without incurring very high legal costs. It reduces the ability of the person you are in dispute with from playing the legal system in an attempt to make it so expensive for you that you have to unjustly conceded, or, if you keep going and win, finding that your opponent has now declared bankruptcy, and you've won nothing but a big legal bill.

        2. rg287 Silver badge

          They've had their redress.

          By agreeing to enter binding arbitration they agreed to be bound by the findings. Arbitration is really just like going through the courts but a hell of a lot cheaper. You both present your cases and the arbitrator makes a ruling.

          I've seen cases in non-binding arbitration where one party has decided they didn't like the ruling, forcing a court case. This ultimately costs more (because you've paid out for the arbitration) and wastes everybody's time. It's an arsehole move. If you're not sincere about entering arbitration, then don't. Have your day in court and get it done with.

          It is an entirely reasonable response to seek a no-suit ruling to prevent vexatious lawsuits if one party is going to play silly buggers after arbitration.

          Consider this. If SETS had gone to court, they'd have been told the same thing, and if they'd then tried to bypass or reject that ruling they would have ended up in contempt. This is just the court enforcing the terms of the contract that they willingly signed. Same outcome, just via a slightly different route.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Arbitration is not really legal redress. It involves no proper legal process, and is often rigged to favour the most powerful of the parties involved. True redress involves a proper court.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              If arbitration is rigged, and you can show it, you can go to court and overturn it. Again you should have got legal advice on the contract when you signed it. But binding arbitration means no appeal if you don’t like the result.

              Decent commercial contracts mean that there are processes where you can either pick or veto the arbitrators that are appointed. It’s not as one-sided a relationship as when companies try to force consumers into their own process that they call arbitration. Though obviously I’ve not seen this contract.

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